(No pictures or the use of phones were allowed during Parliament sessions)
Even after hearing how crazy parliament is from my TA and Professor, I was not prepared for what I saw and experienced during our class trip to the South African Parliament. We had the privilege of seeing different ares of parliament buildings and learn more about the process and daily workings of Parliament from a member of the DA. We had a very structured and well planned tour through different chambers before heading straight into the crazy beast. We started to make our way to the main chamber as a bell rang. It was supposed to indicate to members that the session was to start soon, but it might as well have been equivalent to a bell indicating a natural disaster was to strike and civilians should evacuate.
Somehow, the session was a mix of respectful behavior and chaotic insults. When the Speaker entered, everyone stopped talking and stood up before her. Throughout the session, members would bow towards the Deputy Speaker before leaving the chamber or approaching them to privately discuss a matter. In complete contrast to this practice, members from all parties constantly hurled insults, held private conversations, and texted/played games on their phones DURING speeches. The insults sometimes had nothing to do with critiquing or debating any parts of the speech content. Sometimes, they were directed towards the speaker or party the speaker was a part of. For example: a member of the EFF yelled “BORING!!” during the Speaker’s opening statement. It reminded me of a rap battle where participants try to out insult the other through whatever means possible. And speaking of irrelevant insults, almost all of the speeches rarely touched the topic of the session: parliamentary budget. Speech points included gender rights, children rights, drought, secret ballots, and of course, insults.
My professor and TA have proposed that the ANC is too corrupt and the DA need to step into power. But no matter which party is in power, the parliamentary culture would leave the parliament at a stand still, or frankly, a laughing stock. From my limited knowledge of South African politics and my background in Learning and Organizational Change, I believe a mere change in part power will not solve parliamentary problems. Alas, the ANC can’t be blamed for everything that’s wrong in South African government.